On a map, Carson Valley lies in the crook of the elbow that is the border of California and Nevada. It’s toward the northern end of the Eastern Sierra Nevada. The Sierra Nevada runs over 250-miles from the Mojave Desert in Southern California all the way to the Cascades in Oregon. It is widest at Lake Tahoe, 80-miles across, and slims down to 50-miles at the south end. 

Perhaps the range’s most well-known attributes are it’s highest peak, Mt. Whitney at 14,000 feet, the stunning granite formations of Yosemite National Park, and the alpine jewel that is Lake Tahoe. The faults that created the Sierra Nevada, especially the Carson Range where Carson Valley nestles, seem to be created for outdoor recreation. 

Douglas County Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley
Photo by Tommy Ewasko

Outdoor Recreation

Sprinkled around the peaks and canyons, you’ll find world-renowned hiking and biking trails like the Pacific Crest Trail and the Tahoe Rim Trail. Some of the lesser-known and more regional trails prove to draw visitors and challenge even the most stalwart outdoorsman. Surrounding Carson Valley are more than 60-miles of maintained trails, perfect for hikers, bikers, and horses alike. Newer to the scene are mixed terrain bike routes designed for folks with a passion for gravel and road biking. 

Sierra Nevada road biking is not for the faint of heart, with plenty of challenging peaks. For example, a local event, Riding the Wild Sierra Challenge lets you choose one or eight peaks (the world’s toughest double century) to conquer in one day. 

Hiking abounds, with trails stretching all the way to the top of Jobs and Freel Peeks to the west of Carson Valley. These well known mountain treasures are the pride of Nevada residents, as they never fail to impress with their sunset alpenglow.

A stone’s throw due east is the bi-state Topaz Lake. Stocked with fish for its Jan. 1-Sept. 20 fishing season, the lake is flanked with campgrounds, restaurants, and outdoor recreation opportunities year round. From jet skis and boats, to rafts and stand up paddle boards, the options for fun here run the gamut. 

Fat biking Clear Creek Trail photo by Corey Rich
Fat biking Clear Creek Trail. Photo by Corey Rich.

Serious Snow

The Sierra Nevada boasts some of the top ski resorts in the world around the Lake Tahoe basin. With more than 6-months of snow and 300-days of sun, there are ample opportunities for the most dedicated shredders. Heavenly Mountain is a 20-minute drive from Carson Valley, which means that after a big storm you can be up on the mountain while everyone else is still digging out their cars.

Snowshoeing abounds and is especially impressive in Hope Valley, approximately 30-minutes from Carson Valley. The summer hiking trails make way for winter snowshoes and cross-country skis. And if you’re feeling particularly fit, head over to Kirkwood Mountain Resort for a fat bike adventure. 

Skiing Jobs Peak photo by Corey Rich
Skiing Jobs Peak. Photo by Corey Rich.

Agriculture and Mining

The Sierra Nevada snowpack provides the clear water for Lake Tahoe and the Carson River, which flows through the heart of Carson Valley. These waters recharge the valley’s aquifer and flow north to provide for agriculture in the breadbasket of Nevada. In fact, the farms and ranches of Carson Valley nourished many a miner during the gold rush and the Comstock Lode. From Virginia City to Bodie and San Francisco, valley eggs, butter, and produce were delivered, often by mule teams and wagons.

In addition to farming, the valley still boasts livestock ranching of cow herds and flocks of sheep.

feeding cows in winter
Photo by Lydia Bruegge

Get Lifted

Unique weather conditions exist creating zephyrs, also known as the Sierra Wave, making the Carson Range of the Sierra Nevada the ideal place to soar like an eagle in a glider. Gliders are a special type of aircraft with no engines. Pilots come from across the globe to get various certifications in Minden, Nevada at the annual Wave Camp in April. {link the Perlan article here as well as SNV}. This bucket-list activity is as magical as it is peaceful. But don’t take our word for it. When you take a glider ride your pilot will explain the whole process of the Sierra Wave, pointing out landmarks and formations so you can get your birds-eye bearings. Nothing beats the pleasure of seeing Lake Tahoe on the other side of the ridge and gaining an education at the same time. 

Nevada Balloons
While summers mean ballooning starts at Lake Tahoe, fall and winter means the adventures begin in Carson Valley. Get a panoramic view, with great chances of seeing wildlife like birds, raptors, and deer. 

Skydive Lake Tahoe
If adrenaline is on your bucket list, then look no further than Skydive Lake Tahoe operating out of the Minden-Tahoe Airport. Safe professionals that will make you feel comfortable the whole time? Yes. Amazing perspective of the Sierra Nevada? Yes. Opportunity to scream your face off? Yes! 

skydive lake tahoe
Skydive Lake Tahoe

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